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Thursday, February 24, 2011
WHAT'S WRONG WITH KANSAS
I have to tell you as a native Kansan it's nice to report for once on something happening in that state that isn't embarrassing, well not completely. Union workers were taken from the gallery of the Kansas legislature after they disrupted a vote to take away their right to have donations to their organization’s political action committee withdrawn directly from their paychecks. Okay, so it isn't exactly the Revolution, but hey its Kansas, so it'll have to do for now.
(KansasReporter) TOPEKA, Kan. – Union supporters protesting against a bill that would impact political action committee donations were removed from the House observation gallery after they began chanting and yelling at lawmakers.
The bill, which was approved 74-46, would disallow union members to have donations to their organization’s political action committee withdrawn directly from their paychecks. Currently, when workers join a union, they have the option to check a box if they want donations for the PAC to come out automatically from their pay. This bill would leave only an option for union dues to be directly withdrawn.
Republican proponents in the House said it would keep union members from supporting candidates and bills the individual laborer might not otherwise favor. Opponents argued the GOP is trying to hijack support for union causes, which historically have benefitted Democratic candidates and issues.
House Sergeant at Arms Wayne Owen said the union protesters were removed peaceably with combined efforts from his staff, Capitol Police and Highway Patrol.
He said it’s the first time in memory viewers from the gallery have been removed for being vocally disruptive.
“House rules state there can’t be any demonstrations in the gallery,” Owen said.
As the chants echoed in the chamber, House Speaker Mike O’Neal, a Republican from Hutchinson, condemned the protests.
“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more dismal display of disrespect in the house in my 27 years, as what was just displayed,” O’Neal said.
Protesters congregated outside the chamber as lawmakers continued discussion on the bill. House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Democrat from Lawrence, offered a rebuttal to O’Neal remarks.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen a more dismal piece of legislation,” said Davis, who has served as a legislator for nine years.
His statement sparked a cheer from the protesters who were listening via loudspeakers outside the chamber doors.
As legislative staff and lawmakers exited the chamber, union members hurled insults and sexually inappropriate insults, said O’Neal’s spokesperson, Christie Kriegshauser.
“It’s rather disappointing,” Krieghauser said. She added that she became a target of the insults after mistakenly making eye contact with one of the protesters.
Owens, the House Sergeant at Arms, said in the past people have been kicked out of the gallery for sleeping, talking, eating and holding signs.
Seven other states have passed “paycheck protection” laws, which prohibit unions from automatically withdrawing PAC donations from member paychecks.